Good News and No News
Amid ongoing violence in Iraq, the Associated Press reported (7/31/07) the "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq for July Hit 8-Month Low." The newsworthiness of this statistic is debatable; the 79 U.S. troops who were killed in July were only two less than had been killed in both March and February, making it a fairly unremarkable month for U.S. casualties. In fact, there have been 34 months in the first four years of war when the U.S. death toll was lower than July 2007's. A more unusual, and therefore more newsworthy, statistic about U.S. deaths in Iraq was the 32-month high that was hit in May 2007, when 126 U.S. troops died—a monthly total surpassed only twice before. But this figure didn't merit an AP headline; it was mentioned only in passing in a compilation of statistics released on June 1, which didn’t indicate that it was anything out of the ordinary. This leads one to wonder: Does the AP see its job as reporting the news—or helping the Pentagon promote the "good news" about Iraq?
Seeing What You Want to See
Defending Washington Post columnist Robin Givhan’s Talibanesque column (7/20/07) on Sen. Hillary Clinton's neckline, Post ombud Deborah Howell (7/29/07) seemed to echo Givhan’s claim that "to display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres is a provocation": "Did Clinton have a bad-blouse day, or did she want to wear something a bit provocative? Was this a wardrobe malfunction, and, if so, did it merit this much coverage?" A possibility not considered by Howell: The outfit Clinton was wearing (right) was a perfectly unremarkable one, and it’s only the Post’s strange obsession with the Clintons' sexuality that turns it into a "Cleavage Conversation" (7/27/07).
The Unheard Hawks
When Think Progress (8/9/07) criticized a Washington Post piece by Robin Wright (8/9/07) for giving "neoconservative pundits like the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol and AEI's Michael Rubin a platform to advocate for military action against Iran . . . without offering opposing viewpoints," the Post reporter saw red. In a response published on the Think Progress website, Wright said the article "totally misrepresents what I wrote and the intent, and I consider it intellectually dishonest to attack me or the Post for merely trying to identify the people, institutions and arguments for more aggression action against Iran." Apparently defending the article’s utter lack of balancing voices opposing military action against Iran, Wright wrote: "The press is constantly coming under attack for not identifying early enough the arguments made for going to war with Iraq. I am trying to make sure that the press is devoting attention to what is beginning to be a critical mass for this argument on Iran." Yeah, that was problem with coverage of the pre-invasion Iraq debate: There just wasn't enough space given to pro-war arguments (Extra!, 5-6/03).
The NY Times' 'Tough' Op-Ed
When Republican presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo declared that the U.S. should threaten to bomb Muslim holy sites in Mecca and Medina as a deterrent to any Islamic fundamentalists contemplating attacks, the best the New York Times (8/6/06) could come up with as a headline was "Tancredo Takes a Tough Stance." It's an odd choice of adjective, especially since the Bush State Department told the paper the idea was "absolutely crazy." But then, maybe the Times doesn't think the idea of indiscriminate bombing as a deterrent to violence is all that far out; the paper did, after all, run a piece by Ted Koppel (10/2/06) in which the former Nightline host argued that Iran should be permitted to develop nuclear weapons, with one catch: "If a dirty bomb explodes in Milwaukee, or some other nuclear device detonates in Baltimore or Wichita, if Israel or Egypt or Saudi Arabia should fall victim to a nuclear 'accident,' Iran should understand that the United States government will not search around for the perpetrator. The return address will be predetermined, and it will be somewhere in Iran."